From Houston to Honolulu, activists fight invisible industry

September 27, 2016

HOUSTON and HONOLULU — Human trafficking is a nightmare for thousands of victims who endure the brutality of this modern day slavery daily in the shadows of America’s urban and rural communities. Human trafficking affects all 50 U.S. states, as Wendy Garaghty, coordinator for Amistad Houston, found out while on summer vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii.

As a community educator, Garaghty knows the indicators and signs to look for to identify possible victims and trafficking situations. 

“My very first day in Honolulu I spotted several situations that caused me to see red flags, especially near the fishing vessels and docks,” she said. But when she asked local residents about human trafficking, she was brushed off and told it only happens in other parts of the world.

However, Garaghty found that modern day slavery very much existed in paradise. Research found cases of labor trafficking on the island of Oahu where hundreds of men were brought from Asia to work on the farms. 

“Because the farms are hidden in rural areas away from the city, it is out of site from anyone noticing,” she said.

She also learned that the island's fishing industry was troubled with trafficking and decided to share her findings with the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Honolulu. 

Father Khanh Pham-Nguyen, a Houstonian transplanted to Honolulu, was very interested in raising human trafficking awareness to his parishioners, quickly learning that Honolulu's tourist, agriculture and fishing industries attract traffickers. Father Pham-Nguyen was convinced that his parish should join the Amistad Movement with Garaghty's help. 

“When people don’t hear about it happening in their community, people naturally can feel like it really isn’t a problem, so I felt an overwhelming urge to do something and to help open the eyes of the community,” Garaghty said.

Garaghty, with the support of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart’s Amistad Team in Houston, spent a week bringing awareness to the parishioners, including members of the Knights of Columbus, the Sisters of St. Francis and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which included a brief awareness presentation, teaching about the key indicators of sighting victims. 

The parish's KC council hosted a screening of the documentary “Not My Life,” which presented the case for the conscientious consumer and minimize their own slavery footprint. 

By the end of the week Father Pham-Nguyen gathered a group of parishioners to train as Amistad community educators to further the awareness on the island. These 15 parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul have now formed the core team for Amistad Honolulu.

From the mainland to the island, the Amistad Movement continues to gain momentum as community educators seek the vulnerable communities to warn them of the dangers of falling victim and to give them the tools to be their own community educators.

Amistad Houston and Amistad Honolulu will remain in partnership, supporting each other and spreading the movement to prevent this evil from lurking in their communities. 

For more information about The Amistad Movement visit or email